It wasn’t lengthy after he got here to his choice that he was approached by Joe Gibbs Racing proprietor Joe Gibbs about returning to the group the place his NASCAR profession started almost 20 years in the past.
Gibbs thought Almirola can be a wonderful function mannequin and mentor for JGR’s rising cache of youthful drivers, however he additionally wished him to compete within the Xfinity Sequence – as a full-time driver in actual fact.
Picture by: Ben Earp / NKP / Motorsport Images
Race winner Aric Almirola, RSS Racing, Ford Mustang
“Coach first requested me about racing full-time,” Almirola recalled Wednesday at JGR. “I advised him, ‘I don’t assume I can inform Janice (his spouse) I’m retiring from full-time racing to go full-time racing.’
“So, we talked by way of that and we type of settled on what can be very best for me, which was about 15 races.”
However along with competing this season with one of many high Xfinity organizations within the sport, Almirola discovered the function as driver coach and mentor particularly engaging.
And he’s wasted no time getting proper to work.
“I’ve spent a number of the time already with the drivers individually away from the store after which additionally right here on the store. Simply constructing that relationship with them and being a guiding mild for them,” Almirola mentioned.
“I’m definitely not going to inform them easy methods to drive a race automobile. They’re all distinctive and they’re all proficient they usually all have their very own driving fashion. I keep in mind after I was a child, I wished data and I wished to have the ability to ask questions.”
The function of mentor
Almirola had alternatives over his profession to hunt counsel from a number of Corridor of Famers, together with Tony Stewart, Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson. He believes these relationships have been pivotal to his longevity and wish to present related help.
“Not that I’m prideful, however I really feel a way of satisfaction in figuring out I get to assist. It provides me objective. It provides me a possibility to take what I’ve performed for the final 20 years and attempt to velocity up the training curve for these guys or assist them make one much less mistake than I did,” Almirola mentioned.
“Even on a private facet, simply serving to them navigate life and that work/life steadiness and what that appears like. I keep in mind myself sitting of their sneakers and I keep in mind how a lot it meant to me when any person supplied recommendation or supplied to assist or inspired me.
“These are essential issues for a race automobile driver.”
Almirola’s new function comes as JGR finds itself with a big contingent of younger drivers this season, to not point out its Cup drivers Christopher Bell and Ty Gibbs, who’re each of their 20s.
The group will discipline 4 full-time Xfinity groups this season in addition to an ARCA program.
Sheldon Creed and Chandler Smith will compete full-time in Xfinity whereas the opposite two groups will make the most of a number of drivers together with Almirola, John Hunter Nemechek, Joe Graf Jr., William Sawalich, Taylor Grey and Ryan Truex.
Outdoors of Almriola, the oldest driver within the group is Truex, 33. The remainder vary in age from 17 (Sawalich) to 26 (Nemechek).
Regardless of having not but turned a lap on observe, Steve de Souza, JGR’s government vp for Xfinity Sequence/improvement, mentioned Almirola’s addition has already been felt within the group.
“He’s already met with all of our drivers and we’re creating an agenda now for him in our driver’s conferences,” de Souza mentioned of Almirola’s involvement. “What he has discovered and what he’s been so distinctive in, is just not solely on the observe however off the observe as an individual.
“As we name know, with the social and digital media as we speak, it’s so vital that you simply play the components proper on that. He’s performed a very, actually good job and units a wonderful instance for our drivers.”
Almirola mentioned he has all the time approached a brand new NASCAR season with enthusiasm and the possibility for “new alternatives and new challenges.”
This one, he admits, is a bit more particular.
“I’m as enthusiastic about this yr as I’ve been in a protracted, very long time,” he mentioned. “That is simply totally different by having the chance to deal with extra than simply myself.”
Picture by: Logan Whitton / NKP / Motorsport Images
Aric Almirola, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Smithfield celebrates after successful